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Unions call for Amtrak to restore full dining-car service

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A coalition of Amtrak employee unions has called on the passenger-train system to reinstate full dining-car service on the two routes that run through Toledo, the cancellation of which it says “threatens jobs and pensions from coast to coast” and already has annoyed passengers.

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A Chicago-bound Amtrak train makes its stop in Toledo in November of 2014.

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Veteran railroad employees who live on the East Coast “may be forced to move to Seattle or Chicago just to complete the career they started decades ago,” which in turn will have “ripple effects” on workers around the network, the Amtrak Service Workers Council said.

Amtrak plans to eliminate dining-car meals effective Friday on its Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited trains, which stop in Toledo, Cleveland, and several other northern Ohio cities along their routes between Chicago and the East Coast.

Seven chefs represented by the Transport Workers Union of America received furlough letters with just nine days’ notice, according to the council statement, “giving them a little more than a week to make a major life decision.”

In place of meals served in the dining car, Amtrak said it will offer “contemporary and fresh dining choices” of boxed meals delivered to sleeping-car passengers’ rooms.

The workers’ council, comprising members of three unions, derided that substitution as “nothing more than a cold snack in a cardboard box.

“Riders are paying close to $1,000 a ticket, only to be fed yogurt and sandwiches? We have been told by our members that passengers already are expressing their dissatisfaction with the upcoming service and meal plan changes. ... Maintaining the current high-quality service is important to attracting passengers to Amtrak, and it’s central to our members’ livelihoods,” the council wrote.

Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman, declined to comment on the union’s statement except to state that the pre-packaged meals to be offered to sleeping-car passengers are not limited to the cold examples cited in initial statements about the new meal service.

He also noted that sleeping-car passengers have always had the option to request that meals be brought to their rooms from the dining car.

Revised meal service on the two routes is expected to save Amtrak about $3 million a year.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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